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DiPietro v. Department of Corrections

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 16, 2017



          William W. Caldwell United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         The pro se plaintiff, Nicodemo DiPietro, an inmate at the state correctional institution in Somerset, Pennsylvania, filed an amended complaint in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action. Plaintiff has named the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) as a defendant along with thirteen DOC employees. We have before us Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings.

         Essentially, Plaintiff alleges that defendant, Daniel Meinert, an O.S.I. investigator, falsely labeled Plaintiff an informant or “rat” because Plaintiff refused Meinert's attempts to make him a real informant. Meinert then had Plaintiff transferred to a prison where Plaintiff had many enemies with the intent of having Plaintiff assaulted or killed for being an informant. The remaining defendants have been sued because Plaintiff alleges he contacted them, or filed grievances that they handled, about Meinert's actions, but they did not do anything to prevent Meinert from carrying out his plan.

         In moving for judgment on the pleadings, Defendants contend that they are all entitled to dismissal of any First Amendment retaliation claim in the amended complaint and the Fourteenth Amendment claim. Defendants also argue that certain of them are entitled to dismissal because they lack personal involvement in the actions taken against him.

         II. Standard of Review

         We are considering Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c).[1] Since the motion argues that the amended complaint fails to state a claim, we review it under the standard used for motions to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Turbe v. Gov't of Virgin Islands, 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991); Bangura v. City of Philadelphia, 338 Fed.Appx. 261, 264 (3d Cir. 2009)(nonprecedential).

         Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes dismissal of a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Under Rule 12(b)(6), we must “accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009)(quoting Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008)). While a complaint need only contain “a short and plain statement of the claim, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and detailed factual allegations are not required, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), a complaint must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[L]abels and conclusions” are not enough, and a court “‘is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoted case omitted).

         III. Background

         The following is the background to this litigation, as Plaintiff alleges it. On or about February 13, 2014, O.S.I. investigator, defendant Daniel Meinert, visited Plaintiff, attempting to make him an informant. (Doc. 16, Am. Compl. ¶ 17).[2] “Plaintiff refused and Meinert threatened” Plaintiff “with bodily injury . . . “saying he was going to inform prisoners and the Philly Mob that Plaintiff was an informant/rat.” (Id. ¶ 18). On February 14, 2014, “Meinert facilitated Plaintiff's transfer to SCI-Rockview, ” knowing “Plaintiff had enemies there in an attempt to have Plaintiff assaulted and/or killed as an informant.” (Id. ¶ 19).

         When Plaintiff got to SCI-Rockview, he “filed grievances and informed prison officials: Deputy Tice; Cpt. Churner; & Lt. Vance of Meinert's threats & promise to get Plaintiff injured/killed & permanently labeling Plaintiff an informant placing Plaintiff's life in constant danger.” (Id. ¶ 20). “Deputy Tice; Cpt. Churner; & Lt. Vance deliberately refused to take actions to protect Plaintiff by prohibiting Meinert's retaliation.” (Id. ¶ 21). Instead, “Dept. Tice; Capt. Churner & Lt. Vance deliberately communicated with Meinert and collaborated with Meinert by placing Plaintiff @ SCI-Rockview with Plaintiff's well known enemies inclusive of labeling him an informant.” (Id. ¶ 22).

         On or about April 23, 2014, “Plaintiff notified employee Rackovan via grievance #507034 stating Meinert and prison officials deliberately sent Plaintiff to SCI Rockview per Meinert's instruction so Plaintiff's enemies would attack Him.” (Id. ¶ 23). “Rackovan deliberately refused to take actions to abate Plaintiff's dangerous situation.” (Id. ¶ 24).

         On or about May 5, 2014, “Plaintiff gave notification to” Glunt, Rcokview's superintendent, “that Plaintiff's life was in danger.” (Id. ¶ 25). “Supt. Glunt communicated with Meinert & refused to assist Plaintiff per Meinert's request.” (Id. ¶ 26).

         On or about May 6, 2014, “inmate Khalil Brown heard Sgt. Crawford say he's been instructed to search (toss up/harass) Plaintiff's cell in retaliation for Plaintiff filing a grievance about Meinert's threat, rat label & for contacting Supt. Glunt; Dept. Tice' Capt. Churner & Lt. Vance.” (Id. ¶ 27).

         On or about May 8, 2014, “Plaintiff contacted employee Perry & notified him of the bodily danger Meinert & Rockview prison officials [had] placed him in.” (Id. ¶ 28). “As well as the retaliation cell search Plaintiff's witness told him about.” (Id. ¶ 29). “[E]mployee Perry was contacted by Meinert; Supt. Glunt & Dept. Tice” and was “told then not to get involved” as Plaintiff would be gone soon, meaning dead, by way “of elements inside the prison.” (Id. ¶ 30).

         On or about May 17, 2014, “Plaintiff contacted employee Perry again about prison officials constant cell searching/harassment, prison officials deliberate transfers to prison with enemies who want to kill Plaintiff in hopes it happens, and all the due process violations.” (Id. ¶ 31). “Employee Perry refused to protect Plaintiff's health/safety and upon belief and information, Perry was instructed to do this between” February 14, 2014, and February 15, 2015. (Id. ¶ 32).

         On or about May 24, 2014, “Plaintiff contacted employee Varner & notified her of Meinert's threats & current actions to retaliate, harass, label Plaintiff a rat & get him killed.” (Id. ¶ 33). “[E]mployee Varner communicated with SCI Rockview prison officials named in complaint & colluded with their actions & refused to take measures to protect Plaintiff's life.” (Id. ¶ 34).

         On or about June 6, 2014 to June 12, 2014, “Plaintiff notified Rackovan; Perry and other prison officials again to document their actions to assist Meinert in getting Plaintiff's life & name put on the Philly Mob hit list ..... (Id. ¶ 35).

         On or about June 11, 2014, “an inmate . . . transferred to SCI Rockview & gave Plaintiff a witness account of Meinert's & C.D. Wood's actions of searching other inmates cells [at] Fayette to anger the inmates & telling the inmates who[se] cells were searched that their informant, Plaintiff was the reason the inmates are getting searched.” (Id. ¶ 36). “This searching cell action and publicly saying it was Plaintiff, has put a ‘Rat' label on Plaintiff's head & marked him for death.” (Id. ¶ 37).

         On or about June 12, 2014, “Plaintiff filed a grievance about Meinert's instructions and actions to cell searches of other inmates to endanger Plaintiff's life.” (Id. ¶ 38). “Meinart in retaliation for Plaintiff's grievance circa June 13, 2014, communicated certain instructions to prison officials to relocate Plaintiff to SCI Greene where multiple inmates who[ ] wanted to kill Plaintiff were housed.” (Id. ¶ 39).

         “[C]irca July of 2014 to Nov. 2014 Meinert communicated instructions via electronic means to stop Plaintiff's commissary inclusive of cutting off cable he has been purchasing for well over 10 years ..... ” (Id. ¶ 40).

         “Circa” August 13, 2014, “Plaintiff notified employee Smeal, a new employee of the danger Meinert & prison officials have put Him in & of the harassment, retaliation & rat labeling in hopes for help.” (Id. ¶ 41).[3] “Circa August 2014 to Sept 2014 . . . Smeal contacted Meinert and Rockview prison ...

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